Admissions Leaders Share Strategies for Fostering Diversity and Inclusion

In a landmark ruling on June 29, 2023, the Supreme Court’s decision to ban affirmative action in higher education institutions sent shockwaves through the academic world. The implications of this ruling are profound, as it challenges the long-standing practices aimed at promoting diversity and inclusion on college campuses. 

In response to this pivotal legal shift, Acuity Insights conducted a survey that sought the perspectives of admissions leaders from higher education institutions. Their insights provide valuable guidance on how to navigate this new landscape and continue fostering diversity and inclusion in higher education.

Expert Advice for Cultivating Inclusion and Diversity

Towards the end of the survey we asked respondents: “If you had one piece of advice for your colleagues in higher education on the path forward on ensuring student diversity, what would it be?”

We’ve grouped together the admissions leaders’ paraphrased responses – read on to discover compelling and insightful advice from experts in the field. 

Holistic admissions is the way forward

  • Evaluate an applicant’s experiences rather than looking at the demographics themselves.
  • Look beyond GPA.
  • Consider the whole applicant, including personal statements, experiences, and supplemental application questions. 
  • Lean into holistic application review – there aren’t shortcuts.
  • Use a 50% cognitive and 50% non-cognitive approach to evaluate candidates for admission.
  • Don’t underestimate applicants from underrepresented groups and remember that GPA isn’t everything!

Diversity beyond demographics

  • Instead of looking at demographics themselves, evaluate an applicant’s experiences.
  • Race is only one aspect to consider when striving for diversity in a class. Other factors such as urban or rural background, socio-economic status, state of origin, and chosen major can also contribute to creating a diverse student body.
  • Programs should consider an applicant’s background, place of origin, past experiences and challenges, access to educational opportunities, and mentoring opportunities.
  • Take into account all aspects of diversity and consider how these factors influence an applicant.

A mission-drive admissions approach

  • Don’t give up, keep up the fight. 
  • Align your department’s mission, mission statement, and goals with the objective of increasing diversity. By doing so, you can work towards meeting your goals while actively supporting diversity within your department.
  • Stop legacy admissions.
  • Advance all new programs aimed at achieving a diverse student cohort by exploring all legal avenues. This is essential for the betterment of both the student body and higher education as a whole.
  • Stay mission-driven. When you move away from your mission it becomes difficult to stay committed and focused. If diversity aligns with your institution’s mission and culture, it’s crucial to identify where potential diverse candidates are located, how they can connect with your institution, and then actively engage those channels with a renewed commitment and enthusiasm.

Removing barriers through recruitment

  • Expand your program’s outreach.
  • Look for creative ways to recruit and admit a diverse student body.
  • Take the time to review applications. Look for evidence of barriers overcome and passion for their goals.
  • Leverage Casper to distinguish professional attributes, and concentrate your recruitment efforts on groups in their formative years who are geographically accessible to your institution. Provide mentoring for their chosen profession, and actively engage in recruitment endeavors through national associations. Additionally, maintain regular networking with fellow educators in the field.
  • Be proactive. Use targeted recruitment initiatives and  website materials to reach a diverse population of students.
  • Don’t give up on trying to build a diverse student body.

The Supreme Court’s affirmative action ban presents a significant challenge to higher education institutions’ efforts to foster diversity and inclusion. However, the valuable advice provided by admissions leaders in this survey offers a roadmap for navigating this new terrain. By embracing holistic admissions practices, recognizing the multifaceted nature of diversity, and staying committed to their missions, colleges and universities can continue to enrich the student experience and promote inclusivity for all.

Read our blog post to discover more about the affirmative action survey results!